We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Friday, July 15, 2022

Are Fragmentation, Trauma, and Demoralization at the Root of Mass Shootings?


         


Dear Reader,

Uvalde. Buffalo. Tulsa. Sacramento. Indianapolis. Boulder. Charleston. Orlando. Aurora. Columbine. These are just a select few of an ever-increasing list of places we have come to associate with mass shootings in the United States. Each time, we ask ourselves, "Why?" Why does this continue to happen more in the U.S. than in any other country on earth?

This was the question I explored in a recent blog I wrote for the Cobb Institute. Now I hope you’ll join me for a dynamic discussion about this important issue on Thursday, July 21, 2022 at 7:30pm Eastern/4:30pm Pacific. As I wrote in the blog,

"Rather than just arguing about whether the problem stems from the individuals or the guns, I’d like to suggest that the roots may lie even deeper. And until we are willing to follow the threads all the way down, we will never find a way out of the crisis of mass shootings. I strongly believe that the roots of this problem are cultural fragmentation, an epidemic of trauma, and widespread demoralization. In other words, we are living in a sick society that is producing mass shootings out of its sickness."


Blessings,


Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D.

Director, Process & Faith

Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D., is the director of Process and Faith with the Center for Process Studies at the Claremont School of Theology (CST). She also serves as director of the John Cobb Legacy Fund with the Institute for Ecological Civilization. Sheri earned her Ph.D. in Religion: Process Studies from CST. In her work as a writer, teacher, and spiritual mentor, Dr. Kling draws from wisdom and mystical traditions, relational worldviews, depth psychology, and the intersection of spirituality and science to help people transform their lives. She is the creator of Deeper Rhythm and Transforming Women as well as a faculty member of the Haden Institute. Her personal website is www.sherikling.com.



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Photo courtesy Kelly Sikkema


Are Fragmentation, Trauma, and Demoralization at the Root of Mass Shootings?

Jun. 15, 2022


Uvalde. Buffalo. Tulsa. Sacramento. Indianapolis. Boulder. Charleston. Orlando. Aurora. Columbine. These are just a select few of an ever-increasing list of places we have come to associate with mass shootings in the United States. Each time, we ask ourselves, “Why?” Why does this continue to happen more in the U.S. than in any other country on earth? According to National Public Radio, there have been 246 mass shootings in the first 22 weeks of 2022. That adds up to more than 11 shootings per week. Meanwhile, the New York Times identifies a “disturbing new pattern” of shooters who are under the age of 21.

They point to such causes as online bullying, aggressive marketing of guns to boys, and a “worsening adolescent mental health crisis” that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Frank T. McAndrew, a Knox College psychology professor, describes the young men typically involved in such shootings as people who “feel like losers, and they have an overwhelming drive to show everybody they are not on the bottom.”

We might be tempted to quickly conclude that such assailants are “mentally ill” and leave it at that. But those of us who have struggled with depression, anxiety, or other conditions cringe at the lumping of never violent people into the same category as those who would pick up arms to kill. While trying to understand the mental state of shooters is valid, other justice-oriented people voice concerns over the number of guns in the U.S. and seek a legislative solution to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them to murder.

Yet rather than just arguing about whether the problem stems from the individuals or the guns, I’d like to suggest that the roots may lie even deeper. And until we are willing to follow the threads all the way down, we will never find a way out of the crisis of mass shootings. I strongly believe that the roots of this problem are cultural fragmentation, an epidemic of trauma, and widespread demoralization. In other words, we are living in a sick society that is producing mass shootings out of its sickness.

Fragmentation

We are a fragmented people – societally, interpersonally, and intrapersonally. We can see it in our politics, in our lingering racism, in our lack of close relationships and the resulting loneliness and social isolation. We can see it in skyrocketing increases in depression and drug use. We even see it in our addictive use of technology that, while promising to connect us, often leaves us even more isolated.

The dominant understandings of reality that lie unquestioned at the bedrock of Western culture are at least a part of that fragmentation. The Western worldview is dualistic in its separation of mind from body, and humans from nature. It’s also still stubbornly mechanistic – seeing reality as made up of “dead” matter, billiard balls that are pushed around by external forces – even as we learn from biological and ecological sciences and quantum physics that nothing in the natural world behaves as a machine. Such dualistic and mechanistic worldviews pull us apart and deny the validity of our experience. They see humans and the world as objects to be exploited rather than sacred subjects with which we might be in cooperative and respectful relationship.

Trauma

In the late 1990s, Vincent Felitti of the Kaiser Permanente health system in San Diego and Robert Anda of the Centers for Disease Control conducted a ground-breaking study on the effects of adverse childhood experience (ACE) on adult health and behavior. Known as the ACEs study, it explored the early life experience of 17,000 participants. Ten categories of adverse childhood experience were ultimately identified that included physical/emotional/sexual abuse, having an alcoholic or drug abuser in the household, physical/emotional neglect, and divorce or an incarcerated parent. Based on their responses, everyone was given an ACE score that represented the numerical total of each category experienced.


Photo courtesy Kat J


The findings were stunning. Only one third of participants had an ACE score of zero, one in six had a score of four or more, and one in nine had a score of five or more. The researchers found an alarmingly strong relationship between a higher ACE score and the leading causes of morbidity, mortality, chronic disease, and risky behavior.




We are a traumatized people.

When mass shootings happen, we want to know why. We desperately grasp for explanations by understanding the shooters’ motives. But in a recent article in ACEs Too High News, Jane Ellen Stevens argues that dwelling on motive just gets us a “useless answer to the wrong question.” The right questions to ask about, for example, Payton Gendron, who targeted the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, might include: “What happened to this person? What happened to a beautiful baby boy to turn him into an 18-year-old killer spouting racist screed?” Stevens draws from the work of Jillian Peterson and James Delaney who studied every mass shooting since 1966 and found that “the vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying.” Stevens goes on to tell us that

The effects of ACEs begin showing up in childhood. Kids experiencing trauma act out. They can’t focus. They can’t sit still. Or they withdraw. Fight, flight or freeze—that’s a normal and expected response to trauma. So, they have difficulty learning. The schools that respond by suspending or expelling them just further traumatize them. When they get older, if they have no positive intervention from a caring adult at home or in school, in a clinic or other organization who is trained to understand trauma, they find unhealthy ways to cope. They turn to addictions of all types—alcohol and other drugs, violence, stealing, lying, overeating, gambling, thrill sports, etc.—to soothe themselves to endure their trauma and the effects of their trauma, such as depression or violence.

She goes on to recommend that communities establish a forensic ACE review team to investigate the childhood experiences of each mass shooter and analyze every step in that person’s life when an intervention could have changed the course and, possibly, the outcome. How much healthier might our communities be if we took seriously the prevention of trauma?

It’s also critical to remember that people can heal from trauma. In my own life, deep inner work and spiritual practices like dream work have helped. Wounded people wound. But is this the end of the story? According to writer and theologian Henri Nouwen,

Nobody escapes being wounded. We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not, ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’ When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Photo coutesy Nick Herasimenka

Photo courtesy STNGR Industries

Demoralization

It’s not just fragmentation and trauma that are making American culture sick. According to John F. Schumaker, a retired psychology academic and author of “The Demoralized Mind,” “Western consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis that leave us disoriented and bereft of purpose.” He argues that many people who are identified as depressed are actually suffering from an “existential disorder.” He writes,

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.

Demoralization is the realistic response. Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

Schumaker points out that the core characteristics of consumer culture, including individualism, overwork, hurriedness, debt, and hyper-competition, all affect us negatively and the typical sources of “wisdom, social and community support, spiritual comfort, intellectual growth and life education have dried up.” Schumaker notes that, unlike in the past, people no longer have guiding principles or philosophies of life to give them an “existential compass.”

In the absence of such a compass, we gravitate toward what Noam Chomsky called a “philosophy of futility” in which people feel powerless and insignificant. Schumaker also points to the lack of what Raoul Naroll called a “moral net” or cultural infrastructure that meets “the key psycho-social-spiritual needs of its members, including a sense of identity and belonging, co-operative activities that weave people into a community, and shared rituals and beliefs that offer a convincing existential orientation.”

We are a demoralized people.

People who are dehumanized, demoralized, and dispirited by these forces see the whole world as disappointing and life itself loses its credibility. Though we may be tempted to demand that people just “suck it up,” we’d be wise to listen to Jiddu Krishnamurti, who said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

If we are a sick society, what might make us well?

I believe that broader adoption of a process-relational worldview would certainly help, by showing us that at all levels of reality, we are interconnected, dynamically in process, and creatively empowered to actualize value in a world that we belong to. In a relational world, we are never alone, we matter, and we can experience positive change, no matter how fragmented, traumatized, or demoralized we may be today.

Can I say for sure that such a change would stop mass shootings? No. But surely a healthier society, with healthier people who aren’t fragmented, traumatized, and demoralized would enjoy more creativity, peace, harmony, and beauty. That is the world I want to create.


-- Sheri Kling



Marjorie H. Suchocki - Prayer in Troubling Times, A Process Perspective




Marjorie H. Suchocki - Prayer in Troubling Times,
A Process Perspective, 2010
Feb 9, 2021


Marjorie Suchocki discusses the place and relevance of prayer in process perspective. Through personal narrative and concrete examples, she addresses the challenge of God's activity in the face of truly troubling times. Arguing against the notion that there is a God "up there" to which we pray, Suchocki expounds the fundamental conviction of process theology: God is immanently present to all things and in attentive relationship to all contextual experience. The immanence of God is not coercive, but pervasive and persuasive, constantly adjusting experience to the Good. This framework, Suchocki argues, opens up a new way of understanding how prayer influences God and the world in relation to what is possible for both.


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Books by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki













Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

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Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (born 1933) is an author and United Methodist professor emerita of theology at Claremont School of Theology. She is also co-director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont.

Suchocki earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Pomona College in 1970 and both Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in religion from Claremont Graduate School in 1974. She taught at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary from 1977 to 1983. From 1983 to 1990 she was professor of systematic theology and dean of Wesley Theological Seminary. In 1990 Suchocki returned to Claremont School of Theology, where she held the endowed Ingraham chair in theology and joint appointment at the Claremont Graduate School until her retirement in 2002. She has held visiting professorships at Vanderbilt University in 1996 and 1999, and at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1992.

Since 2001 Suchocki has been director of the Whitehead International Film Festival. She is considered along with John B. Cobb and David Ray Griffin as one of the leaders in the field of process theology.

Books

  • God Christ Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology, Crossroad, 1982 (227 p.), ISBN 0-8245-0464-X, revised ed. 1989 (263 p.): ISBN 0-8245-0970-6
  • The End of Evil: Process Eschatology in Historical Context, State University of New York Press, 1988, ISBN 0-88706-724-7
  • The Fall to Violence: Original Sin in Relational Theology, Continuum International, 1995, ISBN 0-8264-0860-5
  • Trinity in Process: A Relational Theology of God, (coeditor with Joseph A. Bracken), Continuum International, 1996, ISBN 0-8264-0878-8
  • In God's Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer, Chalice Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8272-1615-7
  • The Whispered Word: A Theology of Preaching, Chalice Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8272-4239-5
  • Divinity and Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism, Abingdon Press, 2003, ISBN 0-687-02194-4

External links